Throughout the Masonic degrees, symbols are used to show the universal nature of Freemasonry. The idea that Masonry is universal is a grand idea and there is no doubt that it captures the attention of any new Brother by way of Freemason beliefs. But many Freemasons have probably asked themselves “How is Freemasonry universal?”
When we examine the definition of ‘universal‘ in the dictionary, we find a plethora of definitions. Two of these seem particularly applicable to the universality of Freemasonry. The first of these definitions is “existent or operative everywhere or under all conditions.”
Masonry is existent or operative everywhere, it does not exist solely within a lodge. Freemasons are taught to use the symbolism of the square and compasses in their transactions with all mankind. The charges of our order are intended to give us guidance for our conduct not only in the lodge, but when abroad in the outside world. Freemasonry’s symbolism is the product of those philosophical, moral, and spiritual principles which are universally accepted by man. The ideals of living a virtuous life, acting upon the square and walking upright by the plumb, and providing to relief to our fellow man are universally accepted ideas. Freemasonry only takes these concepts and removes the divisive and argumentative dogma that man tends to attach to them in order to provide a moral code with which all men may agree.
Freemasonry also accepts all men without regard to race, creed, or class. It only asks that they be men of good moral character with a belief in a Supreme Being. It is perhaps the only fraternity in the world that requires no further distinctions in order to become a member. This is a crucial element of Freemasonry for if it ever did distinguish between men because of their beliefs or background, it would no longer be a universal order.
The second definition applies to the universality of Masonic charity: “including or covering all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception.” Masonic charity has no limitations. Recently, this is a concept that has often been forgotten by our fraternity. Masonry is not intended to support one specific charitable cause like many other organizations. Instead, Masonic charity is intended to provide relief to all men and all Brothers for any reason when it is needed. The only limitations for Masonic charity is that those providing the relief should not cause material injury to themselves. Masonic charity can only be described as universal if we accept this all-encompassing approach to relief.
When we take a moment to consider the far-reaching effects of Masonry, it isn’t difficult to see that the fraternity is a universal institution. As Masons, we can use this knowledge to apply the lessons learned within the lodge universally and uphold the dignified reputation of our noble art.